Prometheus - Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
MICHAEL Fassbender and Charlize Theron talk about working with Sir Ridley Scott on Prometheus, embodying their characters and handling the pressure.
They were speaking at a Q&A in London that followed a world first presentation of footage from the film.
Q. Michael, you play David, the ship’s android, the sort of ancestor if you will of Ash Bishop and Alien Resurrection’s Call, we might as well mention her. Did you look at Lance Henrikson or Ian Holm’s performances in any way?
Michael Fassbender: I didn’t. Obviously, I’d seen the films before, but for some reason I didn’t want to go there… Actually, I watched Blade Runner, for some reason I watched that and of course Ridley had suggested The Servant. So I watched The Servant with Dirk Bogarde and then there was Lawrence of Arabia and The Man Who Fell to Earth. And then Greg Louganis the diver popped into my head, I don’t know why. Just the way he sort of moved. As a child, watching the Olympics or whatever, I was, ‘Wow, who’s that guy?’ It was such a weird walk it made me laugh, but it also felt very efficient, centred, like yoga with economy of movement. So, I thought that would be interesting to take something on board.
Q. And Charlize, what can you tell us about Meredith Vickers? In this series company employees tend not to be trustworthy. How about Vickers, where does she come out?
Charlize Theron: It’s weird because I guess there’s a lot of her that is, that makes her the enigma that she is in the beginning that comes across very quintessentially ‘suity’. I guess, like detached and cold and that she really is just there for the sole purpose of you know, making everybody’s life hell, as suits tend to wanna do! That she’s just causing a lot of red tape and she’s not a believer, she’s not a scientist, she really is just there to make sure that you think that everything is going to plan. But then she’s actually there for a very personal reason, of which I cannot speak.
Q: Charlize, we got a really great glimpse of your character in the footage and how, when everyone else wakes up after the two years of sleeping they’re sort of throwing up and getting sick, your character is doing push-ups. I wondered if you could maybe expand on her as that kind of steely character?
Charlize Theron: I have Sir Ridley to thank for that because initially when I got the script, I spoke to Ridley and we were wondering how we could maybe play more on the mystery, because otherwise she just kind of becomes like a one-dimensional suit. You know there was this amazing performance that Tilda Swinton gave in Michael Clayton and Ridley and I were talking about how when you see her, she doesn’t say anything in the beginning of that film, the first time you see her. The kind of panic that is instilled in her says so much without her ever having to say anything.
And I said it’d be great if we could come up with something like that, and then Ridley came up with that idea to put me in a physical position where physically I’m saying ten times more than I could verbally. And when he called me with that, I thought: “Oh, fuck yeah, that girl, that’s the girl I like; the girl that wakes up early, does the push ups, and is like, “did anybody die”?” Like the way she acts: “Are they dead?” I guess you don’t realise the power of picking one very specific thing and that one moment was so powerful and I have Ridley to thank for that.
Q. Charlize, do you feel any pressure in any way? Are you clicking on the Internet, watching what people say about the trailer or do you let it all wash over you?
Charlize Theron: I think Noomi [Rapace] has articulated it really well. I think all you can do is try to stay on a path and I think if you think too much about what the outside world is going to think, or what you people are going to think, it stifles the creativity and I think it’s fear-based and I don’t really know how to work from there. But I definitely have, the only thing different for me, I do have a sense of fear every day going to work, but I think it’s something that I like. I mean I do like the feeling of waking up on my own, having this moment of like: “Oh, f**k, I hope I can do this today!” Because it makes you realise that you’re working with material or you’re working with a director or you’re working with a cast and they’re keeping you on your toes. Nothing’s kinda like: “I can do this with my eyes closed.” And I think that is ultimately what every actor wants, something that challenges you to that point.
Q. And what about Michael, did you feel any pressure?
Michael Fassbender: Just a healthy dose of respect and disrespect [laughs].
Q. Michael, can we just talk a little bit more about David and that layer in the movie of creators and the created, because David is created by Peter Weyland [Guy Pearce]. Was there an attraction for you, playing that extra layer of a robot without a soul looking to become human, I guess?
Michael Fassbender: I don’t really know exactly what’s going on with David to be honest! There are a lot of things there. Because he’s the one android amongst humans, and the humans don’t really like having a robot around that looks like them, who can figure everything out quicker than them and is physically stronger than them. There’s something a little bit off-putting about that. Is that the future? It’s like the idea of engineering people for example. He’s asking his own questions. He’s curious like the gods in old Greek mythology being jealous of human beings for their mortality and for what that must be like to experience.
Also, he has been programmed like a human being, so will his programming start to form its own personality outside of the system that was programmed? Or the idea of human beings – are we all programmed anyway as well? Is someone creating us? Are we programmed to go into a certain job, to make a certain decision at thirty two that will lead to something that happens at thirty five…is everything pre-programmed for us in life? That’s kind of interesting as well. Or do we have free choice in fact? So we just sort of played around with all those things. I just tried to keep it ambiguous. It was something that Ridley said to me at the beginning, when we’re watching him it’s like: “Is he taking the piss?”
Q. Sir Ridley, did you have something to add to that?
Ridley Scott: You should mention the fact that it’s categorically not a secret, what he is. From the beginning, there is no point hiding it doing a science fiction movie today. To me it’s a nod to Ash as well. You can’t say it’s going to be a big deal to review somebody aboard the ship who is actually an android or a replicant or a robot, or whatever the hell you want to call him. It’s daft, it’s so normal. So what you delved into was another layer of a great deal of humour and wit, getting inside this character that you knew what he was from the very beginning, you think he is a housekeeper or a butler. Then what is he doing? He picks up dirt from the floor like a housemaid, but then he walks around very strangely. I think he’s a very humorous character. You’re allowed to laugh in this.
Q. Did you enjoy playing with the humour then Michael?
Michael Fassbender: There is a lot of fun to be had with the character and that was something at the forefront of my mind. And the jealousy of seeing human beings and of being left out. Plus there is something quite childlike about him. He has two and a half years while everyone is asleep, so he’s got to occupy himself and keep his imagination going.
Q. What does he do?
Michael Fassbender: Well, that’s what I’m saying… We don’t know! He doesn’t know!
Q. So there could be a prequel, ‘David’ – just simply watching you for two and a half years walking round the spaceship?
Michael Fassbender: [Laughs aloud] Well, I wanted him to have a little disco dance at the end, while the credits are rolling, in his little private disco.
- Read our review
- Sir Ridley Scott interview
- Noomi Rapace interview
- Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron interview
- Prometheus: Photo Gallery 2
- Prometheus: Behind-the-scenes photos
- Prometheus: World exclusive footage unveiled in London
- Prometheus - First-look Photo Gallery
- Prometheus - Second trailer